The Future Of Freight Transport

Our fascination with autonomous vehicles spans over ten years. Much of that time was focused on self-driving cars in our cities and highways. While that scenario has been slow to materialize, autonomous vehicles are emerging all around us in various applications. We see autonomy rolling out in agriculture, mining, and increasingly, logistics. The autonomous trucking trials happening in the southern region of the U.S. are a harbinger of things to come. The movement of freight however is not limited to our current roads. This recent article describes the future of freight transport – which may be heading underground.

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The Future Of Autonomous Driving And Logistics

Uber Freight and Waymo Via just announced a long-term strategic partnership to connect their technologies and deploy autonomous trucks at scale on the Uber Freight network. According to the announcement, carriers that purchase trucks equipped with the Waymo Driver in the future will be able to opt-in to Uber Freight’s marketplace to seamlessly deploy their autonomous assets on the Uber Freight network. This announcement informs two often asked about possible futures: autonomous driving and logistics.

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Inventing The World We Can Proudly Leave To Our Kids

I first met Chunka Mui in 2017 after reading his book titled The New Killer Apps. I then had the pleasure of working with him on a thought leadership course, where he contributed to a panel discussion on driverless cars. Post course, he participated in a related Driverless Car Interview which you can view below.

In the fall of last year, Chunka contributed to another book titled A Brief History of a Perfect Future with co-authors Paul Carroll and Tim Andrews. The book is fascinating on several levels. It’s effective use of storytelling helps us envision the world of 2050. Its broad view will resonate with a broad segment of leaders, as it covers a future view of computing, communication, information, genomics, energy, water, transportation, healthcare, climate change, and trust.

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The Driverless Race

As the world pursues new mobility solutions, innovative new business models emerge. It is easy to lose faith in a given innovation. The slower than expected rise of autonomous driving is a case in point. But innovation does not stop at the technology level. The video below is a great example that blends autonomous technology with remote operations and a human driver. This remote piece of the model will play out in many scenarios as a stepping stone towards full autonomy. In this example, a remote operator gets the car to the rider, who drives from there. Once arriving at the destination, the remote operator takes over from there. This is similar to the path of autonomous trucking. These niche scenarios accelerate the path towards full autonomy.

Autonomous Trucking

A growing narrative these days reflects a belief that realizing the autonomous driving vision is far off in the future. It’s harder than people think, and many experts believe reaching level five autonomy is next to impossible. Those beliefs stem from the complexity of the human mind, and the intuition we use in decision making. Yet quietly, Autonomous Trucking is on a path towards realization by the middle of this decade. Starting in the southern region of the U.S., autonomous trucks are logging miles. Southern states like Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico, provide the right conditions for early phase testing: bad weather is less common, favorable regulation, and strong highway infrastructure.

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How Close Are We To Autonomous Driving?

I’m extremely confident that level 5 [self-driving cars] or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think it will happen very quickly. I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level 5 autonomy complete this year.

Elon Musk

The question of full autonomy goes back to 2014. There was a time when leaders across industry focused on the disruptive potential of autonomous vehicles. Here in 2021, those disruptive scenarios have not emerged on the timeline many expected. So, how close are we really to level five autonomous driving? That quote above provides one man’s opinion. Granted, that opinion comes from Elon Musk, a person that has made technology history for decades. As this article via Nick Hobson describes, vehicles that have achieved level five autonomy can drive in all circumstances, removing the need for a steering wheel and driver’s seat. Many experts believe reaching level five autonomy is next to impossible. Those beliefs stem from the complexity of the human mind, and the intuition we use in decision making.

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A Perspective On Where We Are On The Autonomous Vehicle Journey

Francesco Biondi doesn’t mince words in his recent assessment of autonomous vehicles both today and into the future. I looked back on my thoughts regarding this scenario in a recent post, concluding that self-driving cars have not evolved to where experts predicted. There was a lot of hype across industries regarding the disruptive potential of this one scenario. I remember the countless conversations about insurance premiums drying up, or how Internet companies would displace the automakers – so I get the skepticism. As Mr. Biondi asks: what went wrong?

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China Launches Autonomous Taxis

In a recent post, I Revisited Autonomous Vehicles. The conclusion is very apparent, we have not realized what many thought we would – at least not yet. But as I mentioned in that post, these scenarios move slowly and then suddenly. In an example of that phenomenon, China just launched an Autonomous Taxi service in Beijing. In a recent article, author Matthew Crisara said the following:

Baidu’s Apollo Go Robotaxi service is the first paid autonomous vehicle service where users can hop in a taxi without a backup driver to intervene. Customers will be able to hail a ride using an app, which allows them to locate a taxi within their vicinity. If they are unable to spot the car, users can remotely honk the horn to find their ride.

Matthew Crisara

The video below describes the new autonomous service.

Revisiting Autonomous Vehicles

In reflecting on thoughts from the previous decade, I looked back at Automation and Digital Transformation. Today I will focus on autonomous vehicles. I first wrote about them in 2014 when I looked at their Disruptive Potential. At the time, the compelling case for moving to full autonomy was truly clear. From the post:

In a recent book titled: The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups, the authors (Chunka Mui and Paul Carroll) dig deeper into this topic. About 5.5 million U.S car accidents occurred in 2009 involving 9.5 million vehicles; the accidents killed 33,808 people and injured 2.2 million others. The total accident related costs in the U.S. are estimated to be roughly $450 billion.

Autonomous vehicles: a disruption case study

The focus was to shift to preventing crashes versus previous efforts to ensure accidents were survivable. Automobile makers would rethink the design and construction of cars from built to survive a crash, to built to avoid them. A report titled Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles predicted mass market adoption of autonomous vehicles between 2022 and 2025. My post mentioned announcements by Nissan and Volvo of their intentions to have commercially viable autonomous-driving capabilities by 2020. In their view back then, it would take an additional five years for prices to drop to allow for some degree of mass-market penetration.

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Revisiting Next Generation Automation

Back in 2014, the thought of advancements in automation was picking up steam. I wrote about a Next Generation Automation and focused on five primary drivers of advanced automation: the automation of knowledge work, advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, and the mobile Internet. A McKinsey report from that period sized five disruptive technologies that could have an economic impact between $14 and $30 trillion. How much have we accomplished exactly seven years since that Blog post was written?

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The Autonomous Vehicle Has Arrived

“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” – Thomas Alva Edison

That is a quote from a recent Article on Waymo’s announcement of a Completely Driverless Service for the general public in Chandler, Tempe and Mesa Arizona. The quote addresses all the skepticism that has surrounded the move towards autonomous vehicles. Author Enrique Dans describes the emerging service and has a message for the naysayers:

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Revisiting the Intersections That Shape Our Future

The building blocks of our future are numerous, and they are intersecting in ways that drive rapid shifts. I Visualized this phenomenon a while back, trying to depict the complexity of our world and the challenges it represents. It was Futurist Gerd Leonhard that gave me the idea. As someone who used my Anchor Visual in keynotes, he reflected on how impactful it might be to demonstrate the convergence that was occurring across the visual.

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Nine Future Innovations That Will Change Urban Travel

Futuristic technologies and a new understanding of how our output impacts the world around us will change the face of transportation as we know it. New innovations hope to solve some of the biggest issues impacting transportation today by curbing pollution, reducing fatalities, and cutting down travel time.

Visionaries like Elon Musk are betting billions on big ideas that seem far fetched, but could become mainstream in the next few years. Hyperloop transportation tubes could be operating passenger services as early as 2021. These tubes would run at speeds of 600 mph or more and transport groups of passengers through pressurized tracks. Eventually, hyperloop hopes to tackle freight shipping too.

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An Animated Guide to Autonomous Driving

The future of cars is a popular topic these days. In a recent Article by Drew Page, he explores self-driving cars in detail, including the hardware, software, points of failure, issues, and levels of autonomy. The article uses this brilliant infographic from The Simple Dollar to describe these various areas. It is hard to get consensus from experts on when they envision full autonomy. In light of this, continuous education and awareness is critical, making articles such as this one critical. Although the benefits of full autonomy are fairly clear (a dramatic drop in auto fatalities, positive environmental impact, etc.), the risks are just as important to consider.

I highly recommend a quick read of the above mentioned article and a thoughtful journey through this infographic.

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Autonomous Vehicles and Strategic Choices

This Recent Article is the result of a collaborative effort between TCS and the Clayton Christensen Institute.  The article examines the strategic choices faced by various players in the emerging Mobility Ecosystem – viewed through the lens of the Theory of Disruptive Innovation. It outlines the best course of action for achieving long-term profitability in the ride-hailing market.

As with any future scenario, the variables that must be considered in determining the path of the scenario can be overwhelming – There is Peril in Predicting. However, inaction is not an option. Strategic choices must be explored.

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The Future of Cars: An Infographic

I recently came across a very good Infographic that describes the future of cars. Here is the abstract from the Carsurance website:


The future of cars undoubtedly seems exciting. Up to this point, cars were viewed primarily as a convenient method of transportation. The main advancements were made in reliability, safety, performance, and overall comfort. Carsurance InfographicHowever, the advent of the internet and artificial intelligence unlocked a whole new field of progress in the auto industry.

An automobile of the future is not just a machine for driving to your desired destination. It’s a fully automated system that makes all the decisions for you while you enjoy the latest content on its premium audio-visual system.

Want to change the route? Just give a verbal command and the cars of the future will know what to do. Worrying about crashing or getting a citation? The vehicles of tomorrow will carry self-driving software that is so reliable, humans do not even come close.

Reducing carbon emission is another crucial challenge for the car industry. Electric and hybrid cars, with their replicable batteries, seem like a convenient solution. However, future cars could rely on even more advanced fuels.

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Autonomous Vehicles and the Perils of Prediction

I am a big believer in rehearsing the future versus attempting to predict it. The wild swings we experience when following future scenarios can range from bold predictions of imminent manifestation to dire warnings that a scenario will never be realized. In this Recent Article, the author describes how the auto industry is rethinking the timetable to realizing level 5 autonomy. Turns out we underestimate the human intelligence required  to drive a car and overestimate our ability to replicate it. The article provides simple examples:

When a piece of cardboard blows across a roadway 200 yards ahead, for example, human drivers quickly determine whether they should run over it or veer around it. Not so for a machine. Is it a piece of metal? Is it heavy or light? Does a machine even “know” that a heavy chunk of metal doesn’t blow across the roadway? It’s a tougher problem.

Or how about this challenge that humans for the most part handle very well:

When a car arrives at a four-way stop at the same time as another vehicle, for example, it’s a dilemma for a machine. Human drivers tend to nod or make eye contact, but micro-controllers can’t do that.

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Supply Chain of the Future: Humans Optional?

As science and technology continue their rapid advance, traditional constructs are challenged; Supply chains are no exception. Here is a brief video that highlights many of the advances that transform how we think about supply chains in the future. As it wraps up, a curated set of videos that touch on several of these advances is provided. Special thanks to Bill Quinn, Rose Castellon-Rodriguez, and Kevin Mulcahy for producing the video.

Be sure to visit the Reimagining the Future YouTube Channel to explore additional topics.

Virtuous Cycles Accelerate Pace

In segment five of my interview with Chunka Mui, we discussed virtuous cycles and their ability to accelerate the pace of science, technology, and emerging future scenarios. Mr. Mui uses the driverless car to demonstrate the impact of these cycles, and the impact they have on emerging scenarios. In a Future Thinking context, analysis of these cycles must be part of our Rehearsing, or we will misjudge their timing and short term implications.

Chunka Mui is the managing director of the Devil’s Advocate Group, a consulting team that helps organizations design and stress test their innovation strategies. Mr. Mui published a popular book titled The New Killer Apps.

Segment five is a quick three minute video.

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The Emerging Mobility Ecosystem

In segment four of my interview with Chunka Mui, we discussed the ultimate demise of our industry construct and the emergence of horizontal ecosystems that remove friction from our life experiences – one experience at a time. This platform-enabled transition can be witnessed in action today, as we watch the Mobility ecosystem form one piece at a time. We can no longer think of industries in isolation, as we witness the collision of various industries and a reconfiguration of the money flow – over $2.5 Trillion in car-related economic value. Chunka uses the example of the collision between the automotive and technology ecosystems to describe  this phenomenon: the shift from cars with computers inside, to computers with wheels on them.

Chunka Mui is the managing director of the Devil’s Advocate Group, a consulting team that helps organizations design and stress test their innovation strategies. Mr. Mui published a popular book titled The New Killer Apps.

Segment four is a quick three minute video.

You can view segment one – Autonomous Vehicles: An Interview with Chunka Mui – here.

You can view segment two – Reimagining Our Driverless Future – here.

You can view segment three – The Ripple Effect – here.

Download A PDF Version of the transcript.

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